It seems the forces of logic have prevailed, and wrestling has been officially returned to the Olympic program roster. The news comes seven months after the extremely controversial choice to remove the historic sport from the list of officially sanctioned events.
“Wrestling has shown great passion and resilience in the last few months,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge in a statement. “They have taken a number of steps to modernize and improve their sport.”
According to USA Today, wrestling received 49 votes in the first round of secret balloting to determine if it would be included in the 2020 Games. In comparison, a joint bid to have baseball/softball includes received 24, while squash came in third with 22.
Wrestling has been a part of the Olympic games since its modern inception, excluding a single event in 1900. The sport was removed seven months ago over concerns that it was not a good spectator sport, and that its rules and regulations have not kept up with modern athletic standards.
This sparked a massive overhaul of the entire organization, including a new head of the program, the inclusion of more women in the leadership, two new weight classes for women (replacing two dropped divisions for men), and rules changes to make wrestling easier to understand for the average viewer.
“We have made mistakes,” said Nenad Lalovic, the head of the wrestling’s governing body FILA, to the committee on Sunday. “We admitted but we decided to listen and learn. This is the only way to be a partner of the IOC. We are aware of our mistakes and they will not happen again. We have to update our sport, like any other sport, every day.”
“With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference, “he continued. “I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be.”
“Today is the most important day in the 2,000-year history of our sport,” Lalovic added. “We feel the weight of that history. Remaining on the Olympic program is crucial to wrestling’s survival.”
Many Olympic officials agreed that cutting wrestling from the roster was a mistake, one that has been rectified with this decision.
“We cannot imagine the Games without wrestling,” said Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, head of the Association of National Olympic Committees. “Wrestling is a founder. Today was a great result.”
The decision was not without its share of controversy though. Wrestling’s inclusion will mean that no new sport will be added for 2020, which was the reason it was cut in the first place.
“It seems to me the result of the exercise to date has been to remove wrestling, which is one of the truly traditional Olympic sports in the program, but then to add it back on to a list of possible new sports,” said IOC member Dick Pound. “That seems to me to be somewhat self-contradictory.
“My sense is there’s a very strong feeling that wrestling should be retained. If that is expressed by the session then we’re back to where we started. There’s been no new sport added to the program.”
The sport is now officially set to appear at the 2020 Olympic Games, which were recently awarded to Tokyo, Japan.